The Minister of Industry and Commerce, Francois Kanimba, and his Agriculture counterpart, Agnes Kalibata, Monday, stressed the need to empower agro-based cooperatives to address drawbacks experienced by small scale farmers in accessing markets.
The Ministers, who were addressing hundreds of local leaders in Eastern Province, and other stakeholders, promised to strengthen the cooperatives.
Kanimba noted that the cooperatives in their current shape were unsustainable, based on evidence of their failure to provide marketing services to their members.
“Issues of market access, governance, managerial problems and start up incentives remain standing. We have to intervene forthwith...it is the duty of every stakeholder,” he implored.
Agnes Kalibata challenged local leaders to strengthen cooperatives in their respective districts. She wondered why mayors, for instance, do not perceive the failure of cooperatives as their own.
The minister reminded local leaders that their performance in fertiliser application, and stocking infrastructure were wanting.
“It is true cooperatives have failed to successfully manage their business, preserve their assets and capital,” she acknowledged. “Where do we put the blame? It is you the mayors and your subordinates?”
“Eastern Province is using less than 30 percent of fertilisers supposed to be utilised on farms. Crop stocking infrastructure is low despite the availability of money,” she lamented.
Alfred Nkubiri, from the Eastern Province Investment Cooperative (EPIC) observed that cooperatives need a complete overhaul.
He noted that a handful of cooperatives that remain operational are bankrupt after members defaulted.
“We are going to establish viable cooperatives in our districts. Our recent fundraising of Rwf 1.5 billion to support agro-based cooperatives explains the commitment,” he said.
The government is also pushing for the establishment of agro-processing industries.